North Lake EMS

A North Lake EMS ambulance is pictured in the foreground, with an AirLink helicopter in the background. Both are used to serve people within the NLEMS ambulance service area.

Following a citizen petition to establish a North Lake EMS special taxing district that was brought before the Lake County Board of Commissioners in late 2020, the Commissioners held their first hearing on the proposal Wednesday, Jan. 6, during their first regular session of 2021. The creation of the taxing district is slated to appear on the May 2021 ballot; the Board must hold two public hearings to help determine whether to pass a resolution to place it on the ballot.

The first of those meetings was held Jan. 6 at the Christmas Valley Community Center, in part so that North Lake citizens wishing to speak on the matter would not have to travel far. The hearings are intended to allow the Commissioners to gather statements both for and against the proposed special taxing district.

A December 2020 letter to the editor from La Pine resident David Kerr explains the reasoning behind the proposed ballot measure. North Lake EMS (NLEMS) is a nonprofit ambulance service that has been in existence since 1959, Kerr states, adding that the service currently averages 200 ambulance runs per year and offers service to all, regardless of their ability to pay.

“Over the last ten years we have doubled our ambulance call volume which is straining our already over worked and dwindling volunteer staff. Since that time we began researching the financial feasibility of becoming a tax base funded special district which would allow us to have paid personnel to overcome this issue,” Kerr’s letter details.

While establishing the special tax district would generate funds for a service that countless North Lake citizens have benefitted from, it has received some push back. One of the main issues opponents of the measure have noted is the proposed tax rate.

If the measure makes it to the May 2021 ballot and passes, the tax district initiative will collect $2.63 per $1,000 of assessed value of all taxed land within the NLEMS ambulance service area (ASA).

Perhaps most controversial, if passed the property tax increase would place Christmas Valley and the surrounding area at a tax rate of $19.73 per $1,000 — higher than the rate paid by citizens living in the town of Lakeview: $19.06 per $1,000.

According to information circulated on Facebook by NLEMS to inform citizens of the proposed measure, the assessed land value within the North Lake ASA currently totals over $141 million. This means, if established, the special taxing district would generate revenue of nearly $372,000 for the EMS district in its first year — November 2021 thru April 2022.

“This would represent an average property tax increase of $125/year throughout the entire NLEMS ASA,” the post states. Of course, as $125 per year would be the average increase, some residents would see a much bigger increase on their property tax bill.

A second hearing for the proposed taxing district is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3, also in Christmas valley.

If the Commissioners approve advancing the measure to the May ballot, Kerr’s letter states, “the NLCEMS group will begin informational meetings in February, March, April and May to explain their history, current funding, WHY this tax base is needed and the projected cost.”

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